Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Hooligan's Wake Up: Klinsmann fired from USMNT

Yesterday's Scores
Premier League
West Bromwich Albion 4-0 Burnley
(Phillips 4', Morrison 16', Fletcher 37', Rondon 64')

La Liga
Legan├ęs 2-0 Osasuna
(Ibanez 6', 57')

Well, here I thought the biggest story was going to be a promotion/relegation study commissioned by the owner of Miami FC. Then, U.S. Soccer decided to fire Jurgen Klinsmann. Klinsmann had a rocky final few days in charge of the USMNT. The last straw was the 4-0 loss at Costa Rica, but the 2-1 loss at home to Mexico was certainly awful, too. But, there was more to the firing than that. Klinsmann's repeated lack of tactical knowledge in his own team is nothing short of baffling. His use of experimental tactics in a huge match against Mexico was inexcusable. He could never settle on any sort of lineup that could consistently work together. He refused to call in an actual left back.

He's been the man in charge during some of U.S. Soccer's lowest moments in the past 25 years. He broke the dos a cero win streak in Columbus. He led the USMNT to their first two loss opening in the Hex. He didn't make a Gold Cup Final. That's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to his failures.

There were some high moments, though. He did escape the group of death in 2014. He has overhauled the youth system in ways we will not see for several years. In general, I think he has left the national setup in a better place than he found it. However, his failures gave little hope for the future of the senior team. I think Sunil Gulati finally saw that there would be no progress in the 2018 World Cup and that a new man was needed for the job.

That new man, if you indeed call him that, will more than likely be Bruce Arena. Arena was the manager for the 2002 World Cup, which saw the USA progress to the quarterfinals. On the flipside, he also oversaw the 2006 team that couldn't win a game in the group stage. He has had loads of success at the MLS level and knows the domestic game inside and out. 

He has gone on record criticizing Klinsmann's use of non-American born dual nationals. I can see his point about the national team needing to be American and all, but I hope he doesn't shut the door on players like Julian Green, Fabian Johnson, and John Brooks just because they were born in Germany. These players have made, and will continue to make, contributions to the senior team at key times. Excluding them would be just as bad as Klinsmann keeping deserving players like Benny Feilhaber out just because of some silly political grudge. I hope Arena, or whoever takes the reins, keeps an open mind to any player he can possibly call in.

Regardless, I think Arena is only a short to medium term stopgap for the USMNT. He will guide the team through the 2018 World Cup and then step away from the job, regardless of the results. The team needs somebody who can focus on a long term development plan, and I don't think that Bruce Arena is at the point in his coaching career that he wants to do that. His focus should be on the senior team, and that's perfectly alright. 

Gulati and his team would do right to bring in a different guy to handle player development duties. One theory for Klinsmann's failure as senior team coach is that  he had too much on his plate while pulling double duty as technical director. I don't think the federation wants to go down that road yet again.

Anyways, I mentioned a pro/rel survey at the beginning of this spiel. The ownership group of the NASL's Miami FC had commisioned Deloitte, a professional services firm, to do a study on the possible benefits and risks associated with implementing a promotion/relegation system in American soccer. The general results of the study indicated that it would benefit the game as a whole, but the soccer landscape isn't ready for it quite yet. 

It goes into more detail, but as a whole it's nothing you haven't heard before if you've been following the debate from the beginning. The people who are in favor of such a system speak of grassroots development and larger crowds turning out to see a team get promoted to MLS or to survive a relegation battle. The anti crowd mentions how the billionaire investors in the top division won't want to risk becoming essentially a minor league team thanks to a bad season and how competitive balance would be shot as the new teams get promoted and constantly yo-yo back and forth between tiers.

It also says that soccer fans are overwhelmingly in favor of pro/rel, but they also only surveyed 1,000 fans. No mention is made of borderline soccer fans who are accustomed to standard closed American sports leagues. These are the types of fans that American soccer needs to win over. Pro/rel is a foreign concept to many of them and it could turn them off. I have no doubts that many soccer fans in the USA wouldn't mind seeing such a system come to our leagues, but I also think that many understand why it hasn't yet.

My full digestion of the survey is over at Last Word on Soccer.

In less controversial news, Arsenal signed right back Hector Bellerin to a long term deal. He had been linked to a move away to Barcelona, but had refuted those reports a number of times. This deal solidifies his commitment to Arsenal, as it will keep him in North London until 2022.

Finally, Seattle Sounders midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro has won the MLS Newcomer of the Year for 2016. He joined the club at the end of July and helped dig the team out of a ninth place hole and qualify for their playoffs. He unlocked the potential of Jordan Morris and picked up a lot of slack in the absence of Clint Dempsey.

Today's Matches
UEFA Champions League
CSKA Moscow v. Beyer Leverkusen- 12pm- FS1
AS Monaco v. Tottenham- 2:45pm- FS1
Borussia Dortmund v. Legia Warsaw- 2:45pm
Sporting CP v. Real Madrid- 2:45pm
FC Copenhagen v. FC Porto- 2:45pm
Leicester City v. Club Brugge- 2:45pm
Dinamo Zagreb v, Olympique Lyonnais- 2:45pm
Sevilla v. Juventus- 2:45pm

MLS Cup Playoffs- Conference Final First Leg
Montreal Impact v. Toronto FC- 8pm- ESPN
Seattle Sounders v. Colorado Rapids- 10pm- FS1

50,000 Words of Soccer Update
This Wake Up, along with the story of the Deloitte survey linked above and a little news piece about Lodeiro winning newcomer of the year take the word count to 35,192.

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